Monthly Archives: January 2010

What Do You Most Do With Yours?

You know, whatever that thing is that you carry around with you everywhere?

I call it a Personal Mobile Device (PMD) as you could be packing a smartphone, a cell phone, a netbook or laptop.  Almost everyone has something they keep with them at all times to keep them connected.

I want to know, what DO you do with yours?  I’m serious.

I hear so many people ooze over their particular brand or the appearance of their thing; I’ve even had people get down right condescending  just because I do not use the same device.

[psst:  BIG tip - whatever that thing is you have there, it's a tool.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.]

So I want to know, what do you use your PMD for?

Here, I’ll start:

I’m a Palm girl.  Always have been.  Here’s a shot of my first PMD:

Treo 270

Treo 270

Yep.  That’s a Treo 270 folks.  Huge! When you flipped it up, it was like putting a whale up to your head.  This was in 2001 – when every other electronic device was getting smaller too.

I can’t tell you how many times I would hear “Hey!  Beam me up Scotty!” when I would use it as a phone in public –  smile and give a nod/wave in the direction… never heard that one before… you’re so clever… butthead… ;)

Anyway, those episodes turned out to be a good thing.  It was one more reason for me to treat my Treo as the device I had planned it for all along (and all I really wanted from it) – access to e-mail on my person.

This was when I was still a solo and personally worked for several attorneys.  My processes were set up so I would get notified of any incoming jobs via e-mail.  From the size of the file and the fax number sent (back then it was all fax), I could better plan when I needed to be behind my keyboard.

Back then I also had only one kid – but I was about to have another right after moving from a renovated Levitt Cape to a 1924 Colonial that literally needed a bones up renovation.  I tell you this because I HAD TO be as efficient with my time as I could and being connected to my e-mails through my PMD kept me fully in the know.

Now, I’m still a Palm girl.  Have a Pre – but am looking forward to testing the Pixi.  But this isn’t about me.  It’s about all of YOU reading this.  I know you have one and I don’t care what type of thing it is – what do you DO with it?

E-mail; calls; surf the web; listen to music – all of the above and more?

Great!

Only take calls?

Perfect.

Can you leave me a comment with what you do with your PMD?

If you can also provide carrier and model for context, muchly appreciated!

If you’ve got a few extra moments, and can also answer:

* Do you have any device specific apps you couldn’t live without?
* Is your information routed through any third party servers – such as RIM, your carrier’s network or Google?
* Do you have an unlimited data plan that includes texts?

All the better.

TIA!

Is That An Assistant In Your Pocket?

I’ve been running into issues with a few words lately.  First, to clarify, according to dictionary.com, the term “assistant” is defined as:

–noun

1. a person who assists or gives aid and support; helper.
2. a person who is subordinate to another in rank, function, etc.; one holding a secondary rank in an office or post: He was assistant to the office manager.

According to dictionary.com, the term “secretary” is defined as:

–noun

1. a person, usually an official, who is in charge of the records, correspondence, minutes of meetings, and related affairs of an organization, company, association, etc.: the secretary of the Linguistic Society of America.
2. a person employed to handle correspondence and do routine work in a business office, usually involving taking dictation, typing, filing, and the like.

Did you notice the second word in each one of those definitions was “person”.  A “person” – not a gadget, not a cartoon character on your website, not an e-mail reminder service and certainly not a huge foreign conglomerate funded through venture capital.

Just to be certain that I’m not going crazy, I checked and here’s the definition of a “person”:

–noun

1. a human being, whether man, woman, or child: The table seats four persons.
2. a human being as distinguished from an animal or a thing.

Let’s face it, your cell phone may be smart, but it’s not like having a “secretary” in your pocket!

Don’t mean to be touchy on the subject, but I’m tired of trying to help people figure out you can’t replace the live thinking brain in the customary business process of having an “assistant” or “secretary”.  If you remove the live, thinking “assistant/secretary”, chances are the software, tool or service you are using will be much less effective and much more time/labor intensive than you’ve been lead to believe.

Technology purveyors are not helping the issue.  They throw the terms “assistant” and “secretary” around on a whim.  They add them before or after their applications and processes as though any tech could take the place of a live, thinking brain.  In fact, it was an ad which said something along the lines of “now your secretary is in your pocket…” which got the juices going for this article!  A secretary is a human being.  There’s no way s/he’s squeezing into any pocket! LOL

Worse still are the ad campaigns calling out to you that if you use a real live assistant, you are “old school” or don’t have a clue about technology.  Not so!  They want to make you think you need to use THEIR tech… yeah only THEIR tech solves all your woes… <grin>

So, exactly when did having or being a secretary be a negative?  When did the noble profession of assisting become a badge of shame; some sort of weakness or incompetence on the part of the person using the assistant and some sort of sub-human, subservient position to hold as the assistant?

I’m not certain, but I believe it coincided about the same time that the majority of the population started typing with more than four fingers.  No, I’m not kidding.  Once peeps could type, I guess they figured they had no need for an assistant and tech purveyors rolled with it.

Again, not trying to point out the obvious here, but having the skill to type relatively fast does not mean you can or should be spending the majority of your time behind a keyboard performing administrative/secretarial functions.

So let me take a moment here and set the record straight. I am a legal and virtual assistant. No – I’m not a paralegal (although my experience dictates I could call myself that).  I prefer assistant – I’m a damn good legal secretary in web space; a virtual assistant; a digital office manager.

I say it loud and proud:  I assist people. Mostly attorneys (call me crazy!). I’m so dang good at it, in fact, I assist from webspace and NEVER MISS A BEAT… really, really (just ask my clients…) ;)

By the way, how many “successful” people do you know who do NOT have a live, thinking and without a doubt human assistant?  Presidents, celebrities, doctors, lawyers … about the only peeps who don’t have assistants are the ones who could use them the most – mom’s!

Funny thing is, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that technically, using my service was putting an assistant … a live, capable and pleasant “person” looking forward to completing your assignments at the end of any telephone – and if your telephone fits in your pocket…

The tech I have in place allows any client to access their workflow by using a toll free telephone number or securely through the internet. What am I referring to?  The tech I use to service 175+ attorneys on and through the net.  I call it “digital workflow technology” or “the System” but it’s creator (Sten Tel, Inc.) calls it an ASP (and it holds 2 patents).

The System is what I use in conjunction with my growing team of Digital Assistants – all just thrilled to be able to provide the top notch quality  services they did “in house” – only to the clients of LegalTypist, virtually.

So, if you’re an attorney who is not ashamed to have and use an assistant;  prefer one who is really smart and dedicated; and you prefer secure, yet accessible and easy to use technology – consider LegalTypist for your assisting needs.

If you’re not an attorney or you don’t wish to use a web based assistant, but still want the tech – consider calling me personally.  It’s a brand new option: one low monthly fee and you get access to state of the art technology that is as easy to use as dialing a toll free telephone number for you and as easy as logging in for your assistant (virtual or not).

Chore Chart

A week or so ago I was tweeting with some peeps about how I developed a chart of chores when I first started LegalTypist.

Back then, I was the mother of two children under age 5, in the middle of an on going whole house renovation, with a fledgling business.  Let’s just say, I needed to get everything organized, including my cleaning.

I promised to share.

Here it is:

ChoreChart

and you can download the pdf here.

A tips re: cleaning efficiently:

  1. I use only three products:   (a) Fantastic; (b) Windex; and (c) bleach.  Fantastic on counters, cabinets and anything plastic/fiberglass (won’t hurt these surfaces).  I use Windex on items that need to be shiny – mirrors, stove top, windows; and I use bleach for sparkly sinks and toilet bowls.
  2. I keep separate bottles of these items upstairs, under the bathroom sink – as well as a roll of paper towels and a hand scrubby brush (much easier to clean the tub).
  3. Make your bed when you first get up (or you won’t bother) and make sure your kitchen sink is empty before you go to bed. It’s a psychological thing for me – getting into a made bed just makes it that much more inviting and not waking up with dishes and feeling like I’m behind before I even get started.
  4. Nuke your kitchen sponge every night before you go to bed.  Rinse it first, then pop in microwave for a minute or two (will be hot!).  This is not scientific, but it does make me feel better about using a sponge which apparently has the most active germs of any surface in your home (recently confirmed by MythBusters).
  5. Do little things all the time – such as a general pick up of the living room as you walk through or quick swipe of the bathroom right after you use it – each takes less than 5 minutes of concentrated effort.  Two or three of these five minute efforts each day has a massive overall effect on the cleanliness of your home.

Website – Can You Do It Yourselfer?

Of course you can – but that doesn’t always mean you should!

First the tech.  If you are techie enough to register a domain, you are techie enough to install and play with WordPress.  If you need help, there are a ton of videos on YouTube that give step by step instructions on installing WordPress from Cpanel on any domain.  Here’s one:

While I recommend GoDaddy for registering domains, I do not recommend them for hosting.  I prefer hosts that give you access to your site through Cpanel.  GoDaddy does not support CPanel.

I send my tech savvy contacts to Host Gator.  My main site, www.legaltypist.com is hosted with a North Carolina company called Venue Communications – for those not so techy, Scott and his team can build you a very nice website at a reasonable rate.

How to get a website loaded and determining how you will manipulate the content is only one part of a successful website – you still need words, pictures and and fresh on going content which is sprinkled with key words and targeted phrases.  Let’s face it, if no one is visiting your site, what’s the point?!

If you’d rather have someone else handle design – and you do the words, a great option for attorneys is Next Client.  They handle the look of your site through custom templates and provide a web based account for you to manipulate the content.  Their sites also come with hosting and e-mail.  Perfect option for small law firms.

Logo design is another important aspect of a successful website.  If you need a logo, I recommend http://www.thelogocompany.com.  The reason I recommend them (besides the beautiful job they did colorizing my lady logo), is they provide your artwork in file formats consistent for both on and off line printing.

So you can have your local printer use your logo for printed promotional materials vs. just using your logo just on line. At less than $200 to create your logo, as well as the stationary you need when in business, The Logo Company is truly quite a bargain.

Next you have to decide what you want your website to do.  Every good website has an audience; and speaks to that audience.  Who are you trying to attract?  Potential clients, other attorneys, the media… make your site for that particular audience, not you.

Here’s a few questions you need to answer:

  1. What are your objectives? So when you have visitors, what do you want them to do?
  2. Who is your target market?
  3. What kind of impression do you wish to make?
  4. What information do you need to impart?
  5. Why should your target audience believe you know what you are talking about?
  6. What tone do you wish to convey?
  7. How do you want to handle navigation through your site?
  8. What mechanisms are you going to use to attract visitors?
  9. What is your budget?
  10. How fast do you want your site to go live?

One item of note: be careful how you collect information on line. There are auto-bots who harvest e-mails address right off of websites.  There are others that automatically fill in forms.  That’s why on many sites you have to enter one or two funky looking words into a separate field (known as a captcha form) before you can select submit.  That form stops the bots!

Finally, be cognizant of any limitations a legal website may have in terms of a privacy policy and solicitation.  Attorneys don’t want to run afoul of any legal specific restrictions on advertising or otherwise.

If you’d like more information on installing WordPress – join me on Wednesday, January 20th as I go over this and other considerations in Blogging 101 for Lawyers and Other Professionals.  It’s at Noon ET and free. :)

Dictation Is Not Just About Documents

It’s about saving time and delegating.

According to nflow:

A survey taken by firms that had recently moved to digital dictation discovered that authors using digital dictation save themselves an average of 8 minutes per 1 page document produced. If an author produced 100 pages of text a week, this will save them around 12 hours.

When I started back in the day, dictation was captured by me personally.  I sat across from the attorney, steno book and fine tip Bic pen (blue, for those of you who are curious) in hand – taking down every utterance in my own combo of short/long hand. I’d then travel to my typewriter (ok, I’m dating myself a bit) to type out the documents in whatever format and on whatever type of paper the words I was typing required.  Does anyone but me remember carbon paper?! (leave a comment!)

In the late 70′s/early 80′s, some attorneys upgraded to portable recorders for the dictation part, freeing me up to do all the other stuff I had to get done. For urgent matters, they’d still call me in; but the day to day grind work would be dictated onto a micro cassette tape which I would take care of as I had time throughout my day.

Today’s equivalent is digital dictation.  By removing the tape, there is again the opportunity to significantly increase productivity by improving the dictation/transcription process.

I can hear some of you right now thinking – yeah, but I can type, so why do I need to dictate?

Unless you’re a really (and I mean REALLY) fast typist, you talk faster.  Go ahead, talk normally and try to type all the words as you speak. lol

Additionally, dictation does not equal document – I’ve been listening to attorneys dictate everything from their correspondence and legal documents to notes and instructions for close to 20 years.

So, along with typing, I’d call clients and the courts; adjourn dates; open new files; follow up on various projects; find specific documents, create and track reminders/to dos/calendar/contact entries – you name it.  If it could be spoken and delegated, my boss would speak it and I would get it done.

In fact, in his groundbreaking work, Getting Things Done, David Allen lists “dictation” as one of only 6 ways to collect information and get what is in your head out and actionable.

Dictation is about delegating – delegating the typing AND any other duties you feel comfortable giving to your assistant (virtual or not).

By the way, it is natural to have a fear of recording your voice and/or to not like the sound of your recorded voice.  Much along the same lines as fear of public speaking – those who have never “dictated” can be extremely self conscious.

Just as with any new skill (and dictation is just that), you become more proficient over time and with practice.

If you’d like to learn more about dictating (and it’s yang – transcription), join me for a free teleclass this Wednesday at noon: click here for details

Otherwise, if you’d like to ask if something can be done virtually, set up a call with me.  Dial 1-866-848-2195 x104 and Tracy will coordinate a good time for us both.

3 Musts Before Hiring Any VA

Anyone with an internet connection and a dream can call themselves a VA.  Do not be fooled into using some penny on the dollar foreign corporation or someone who is just dabbling in the profession.  You’ll end up losing – time and money!

What can you do to make sure your VA is a professional – not only willing but able to do your work:

1.  Google their name. No website, no Google profile or no links referencing them on the first page means they aren’t very good at the virtual part.  That’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but you’ll want to make sure they are not so tech deficient, you spend more time explaining to them how to get things done vs. what you need done.

2.  Ask for references and call them. If a VA can’t give you the name and telephone number of a client who is happy with their service, chances are there aren’t any.  Even if they don’t have any virtual clients (yet), they should be able to give you the name of a previous employer willing to give a reference or attest to their abilities.

3.  Sign a contract. This contract should outline that the VA is working as an independent contractor and not an employee, the turn around times/parameters by which projects or tasks will be completed, and the cost for same.  Do not work with any VA without a signed contract.

Of course, there are a lot of other considerations when hiring an assistant – confidentiality, how and what exactly they will be doing for you to name a few.  Use the three tips above to help you narrow in on that perfect individual.  Once s/he is found, you can take it to the next level and work out the details of getting things done.

Hat tip to @gtdguy and this story: http://www.gtdtimes.com/2010/01/06/using-a-virtual-assistant/ for prompting this post.

10 Fabulous Frugal Freebie Techs For 2010

Everybody likes free stuff.   However, I’ve come to learn that some freebies are not worth the time it takes to install/learn, or even worse, can do harm to your computer.

So here’s my list of 10 fabulous frugal freebies (as downloaded/used by yours truly):

  1. PrimoPDF (http://www.primopdf.com) – allows you to create pdf files from most applications simply by hitting Ctrl + P and selecting PrimoPDF.  Not as robust as Adobe, but not $400+ either!
  2. Cpanel – this is offered through most web hosts.  Cpanel provides you with access to the administrative stuff of websites – so you can create e-mail accounts, install WordPress, track your stats and more.  You’ll know if your host uses Cpanel by navigating to http://www.yourdomain.com/cpanel (fill in the yourdomain with your own url, of course!)  If you don’t see a login screen, your host may not support Cpanel.  Check the fine print or call to be certain.
  3. Blogger – easy to set up blog software.  Don’t have time to get a unique domain for your blog, install WordPress and hunt down a theme?  No worries, you need to get into the habit of blogging too and Blogger is the perfect tech for it.  You can set up a blogger blog and be posting your thoughts and what not in about 5 minutes.  Serious.
  4. Gmail – only for non-business related e-mails – the e-zines you intend to read but never get to, the list servs you sign up for only to find you get 500+ messages a day – public stuff.  By getting these types of messages out and away from the you@yourdomain.com e-mail account, you’ll automatically be more organized.
  5. Lulu.com – got an e-book, a recorded teleseminar or other educational item for sale?  Lulu.com takes a wee percentage but covers all the important stuff – like securely taking credit card numbers so you don’t have to.
  6. EventBrite – want to host a teleseminar, webinar or in real life event/party?  Use EventBrite to post the details and allow people to register through e-mail or by clicking on a link from your site.  Easy widgets also allow you to post upcoming events on your blog (see upper right).  FYI, if your event is free, so is EventBrite.  If there’s a fee for you revent, like Lulu.com, EventBrite takes a wee percentage but handles all the details.
  7. BlogTalkRadio – host your own free internet radio show.  Sign up for an account, pick your date and get ready to be openly speaking to the world!
  8. Logo Ease – all brands start with a domain and require a logo.  Not especially graphic?  No problem!  This program walks you through the steps to build a decent logo.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, go ahead and use The Logo Company – at only $149 per logo, you can’t go wrong! Why I especially ? LogoEase and TheLogoCompany is because they provide completed logos in file formats for use on and off line.  Many “designers” only provide file types for use on line.
  9. Tungle – one of my latest finds – this free application allows your clients, customers and friends to make appointments with you directly from your website.  Want to see just how easy it is? Head on over to www.tungle.me/AndreaCannavina.
  10. Twitter - without a doubt the best free web application.  Allows me to connect with people from all over the globe and share my particular knowledge and skill set with the world.  Will I make $1 million dollars from it?  Of course not!  The purpose of twitter is not to make money, but make connections and I have made 1000′s of those!

And that’s my list of fabulous freebies.  If you have any of your own, or any thoughts on the one’s I’ve listed, please share by leaving a comment.